Two children taken from outside Paramount Christian Academy in Lacey in an apparent car theft were found unharmed Wednesday morning, according to the Lacey Police Department.
Officers are still looking for the suspect in the case.
Based on Intercity Transit surveillance footage, the suspect appears to be a light-skinned black man wearing dark clothing and a stocking cap, according to Lacey police.
School Principal Amy Goodwin said a mother had left the two children outside in the car while dropping off a third child. When she walked back out to the parking lot, the car and the children were gone.
“All of a sudden she was knocking on the door again saying the children were gone,” Goodwin said. “We called 911. and the police were here in a few minutes.”
Police received reports of a stolen vehicle at about 7 a.m. and learned that two children between the ages of 3 and 5 were sitting in the back seat of the car when it was stolen. Lacey police, Thurston County sheriff’s deputies and the Washington State Patrol all began searching for the car and the children, according to Lacey police.
The car and children were found on the 2600 block of College Street Southeast — only a few blocks from the school — about 7:40 a.m. The suspect had fled south on foot with a backpack from the car.
A K-9 track from the stolen car led officers to a home in the 4500 block of 35th Court Southeast. Officers obtained a search warrant for the home. Residents did not cooperate when officers asked them to open the door, so the officers forced it open. The two people inside were temporarily detained and questioned.
The suspect wasn’t inside the home, but officers believe he was there before they arrived.
Detectives believe that the man boarded an Intercity Transit bus and rode to the intersection of Balustrade Boulevard Southeast and Ruddell Road Southeast. He was seen about 15 minutes later walking north on Balustrade Boulevard toward Yelm Highway Southeast.
Paramount Christian Academy opened in August of 2011, and about 100 children are enrolled in preschool through second-grade classes or in before- and after-school child care programs. Goodwin said the older sibling of the children who were taken is enrolled in the child care program.
She said the school has never had any problems with criminal activity before — not even vandalism.
“This is the first time we’ve had any kind of issue, and I’m glad it turned out OK,” Goodwin said. “I just thank God that the kids are fine.”
Goodwin said she is unsure whether parents frequently leave children in cars while dropping off students.
Lacey and Thurston County detectives are working together to find the suspect. Anyone with information on this crime is asked to contact the Lacey Police Department Detective Division at 360-459-4333 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).